President Jacob Zuma on Monday warned against racists, such as cartoonists, who used art as a form of expression.
"We should thus be alert to subtle and disguised racism perpetuated through the stereotyping of individuals or groups of people in the media, through cartoons and satire," he told thousands of people at a Human Rights Day celebration at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Human Rights Day commemorates the shooting of 69 people during a protest against the apartheid regime's pass laws at the Sharpeville police station on March 21, 1960.
United against racism
This year's event was being held under the theme "South Africans United Against Racism", a decision prompted by several racist comments and outbursts on social media earlier this year. Zuma said everyone had a responsibility to fight this.
"Earlier this year, our country experienced explosions of anger due to racist utterances and writings which reminded South Africans that the vestiges of white supremacy and racism still exist in some sections of society."
It was clear some people still yearned for the past, when blacks were treated like second-class citizens. However, most South Africans abhorred racism and racial discrimination, he said.
The apartheid regime systematically divided South Africans and caused untold damage to the country, which he said would take decades to reverse.
"The best land was taken away while black people were shuffled into reserves and had to seek permission to live and work in urban areas. This gave rise to the pass laws and the Sharpeville massacre."
Fight against discrimination
Zuma paid tribute to those leaders who had dedicated their lives to fighting racism and discrimination, including Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Helen Joseph, and Ahmed Kathrada. They fought for the kind of society envisaged in the Constitution.
This year would mark the 20th anniversary of the Constitution being signed into law, in Sharpeville in December 1996.
He called on South Africans to remember those who had sacrificed their lives for a non-racial society, and who suffered gross human rights violations, and who were tortured or imprisoned.
Zuma said South Africans should remember those protesters apartheid police killed on the same in KwaLanga, Cape Town.